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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Flash S2E18: Versus Zoom


The Flash
Series 2, Episode 18
Versus Zoom



Okay, so there's a key problem with the cliffhanger to this episode, and it's a problem that was set up all the way at the start of this year's Arrow. In that episode, we had a flashforward to a funeral - which we now know was Laurel's funeral - and its aftermath, which had Barry speeding in and then speeding away. Since that hasn't happened yet - in fact, can't have happened, since the reason Barry wasn't at the funeral was because of an immediate problem with Zoom, making it seem like this chunk of episodes is why he'll miss the funeral - we now know that not only will Barry regain his speed, he'll regain it very soon. 

Kind of shot your own dramatic tension in the foot there, guys. And yes, obviously Barry wasn't going to be permanently de-powered, but now we have a time frame for him to get his powers back in.

Leaving that aside, though, let's review the episode as it was given to us.

Just after returning from the universe of Supergirl, Barry discovers that the tachyon enhancer has made him four times as fast as he was - fast enough to defeat Zoom. As the team researches how to open the breaches, they slowly come to the conclusion that Cisco might be able to open them using his powers. At the same time, they discover that Jay was a notorious serial killer, Hunter Zolomon, before he was given super-speed. Armed with this new knowledge, they open a breach, only for things to go horribly wrong when Jay captures Wally, using him as a bargaining chip for Barry's speed.

Team 'This Could Go Horribly Wrong But Let's Do It Anyway.'

My rambling about spoiled dramatic tension aside, this really is a pretty good episode. Zoom always makes any episode he appears in tense, lively, and fraught, and that's apparently no less true now that we know who's under his mask. Teddy Sears (who apparently was really hoping the writers would change their mind about Jay being Zoom) does a great job of portraying Zoom as somebody truly unhinged, combining elements of his Jay Garrick performance with elements of Zoom's snarling, monster-y manner. 

As was the case with 'Enter Zoom', 'Versus Zoom' doesn't actually have the cast clash with Zoom until the latter part of the episode - instead the majority of the episode is about the team trying to open the breaches and dealing with their own character conflicts over whether doing that is the right thing to do. The Flash is pretty good at doing that kind of quiet, character focused drama, although I admit that I did roll my eyes a bit when it turned out that Cisco wasn't afraid of letting Zoom run rampant in their world, but rather of turning into a supervillain. It's not even that that particular character conflict doesn't have a place in the show, because it easily could, it just feels like an odd place for it to crop up.

(Wells' conflict, meanwhile, is dealt with in a single conversation with Joe - and I get the parallel that these two are both protective fathers, both to daughters and to Barry, but at the same time, that felt awfully abrupt.)

Wally seems upset.

Unlike in 'Enter Zoom', though, Zoom is a constant presence in this episode. The episode opens on a flashback of Jay's abusive father (dressed, very noticeably, in Jay's 'fake Flash' costume) murdering his mother, with the strong implication (made explicit shortly thereafter) that he then committed suicide. For The Flash, which is usually pretty happy-go-lucky, that's fairly dark, and it sets up the entire episode to come, putting not just Jay's actions as Zoom but also his entire Flash persona (he's running around in the clothes his father died in, after all, or a very close recreation of them, while presenting an idealised, heroic image of himself to the world) into a new and unnerving light.

The show probably could have easily devoted an entire episode to Jay's backstory, and I'm admittedly a little sad that they didn't.

I admit, when it came down to Barry giving Jay his speed, I was half expecting the cast to reveal some kind of trick, and while the surprise that Barry did actually lose his speed wore off pretty quickly - see the earlier point about knowing for a fact that he'll have it back within the next few episodes - there was a moment of shock that the show let Barry be de-powered, especially since they went to pains to show it in a fairly visceral way, with Barry collapsing shortly before being nearly throttled by Jay.

I like the little gold trim on his suit, it's nice.

So, I'm pretty glad that The Flash is back, and this was a great episode for it to come back on. Hopefully we won't get any other three week hiatuses before the end of the series, because there's not all that many episodes left anyway. Next episode, it looks like Jay is abducting people left right and centre, and Barry is going up against someone whose main superpower seems to be the ability to punch people, which would probably be a lot less threatening if he hadn't lost his powers.

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